AUGUSTA — Legislation that creates a new state commission to review the services Maine provides for its veterans vaulted a key hurdle Wednesday when lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee unanimously approved the measure.

The measure, LD 721, sponsored by state Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, next faces votes before the full Legislature.  

A legislative resolve, the bill sets up a 13-member panel, including appointees from the state House and Senate. The panel would also include the director of the state’s Bureau of Veterans Services or a designee.

Its aim will be to review the current services the state provides to veterans as well as including examining ways to improve communications between veterans and the state and other agencies that are in place to assist them. The panel is meant to recommend ways to better align the state’s services for veterans, find any gaps in those services and make suggestions for improvements or additions.

“I’m very encouraged by this unanimous, bipartisan committee vote,” said Golden, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We must ensure this state provides the best services possible to our veterans, and I’m confident this is a cause we can all agree on.”

Besides approving Golden’s proposal, the committee Wednesday was also introduced to Adria Horn, who was recently named director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services. Horn will replace outgoing director Peter Ogden, who is retiring. Ogden will continue to serve the bureau in an advisory role during a three-month transition period, bureau staff said.

Horn, a West Point graduate and Army reservist, who has deployed five times in support of the global war on terror during her 14-year Army career, is leaving her job with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, where she serves as a member of Collins’ Maine staff.

Horn, or her designee, will be among those sitting on the commission, if approved by the Legislature and Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The commission, as proposed in the resolve, is meant to be short term and supported by research staff from the Legislature’s Office of Policy and Legal Analysis with its preliminary report to the Legislature due in December.

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